I don’t think I’ve ever been ushered out of a shop quite so quickly before. But to be fair to the shopkeeper, Dell had certainly left her mark in a tremendous attack of diarrhoea akin to the Great Tai Po Poo-Plosion of 2009 and the general fear was that there was more where it came from.

My visit to the shop had started out innocently enough. I had successfully negotiated a major shopping centre not far from our house (one that I hate with a passion) and in celebration, I stopped off at a little op shop just around the corner. This Salvos is forever embedded in the girls’ minds as the one we went to “with William” because — although two years of regular visits have since passed — on our first visit we were accompanied by a friend and her children.

The three older girls headed to the toy section while I started a methodical browse with Dell in her customary sling position — face-in with her legs dangling from about my hip height.

There’s a trick to finding the best bargains in second-hand shops, and you’ve got to be thorough. So I walked among the furniture at the front of the shop, taking my time to look carefully at the items.

About the time I was neatly wedged between a futon, a bookshelf and a stained mattress propped up against the wall, Delaney pooed her pants. And then some.

Really, it just came and came. And then there was some more. She was strapped to me, and so I was an easy target. And so was the furniture around us. It ran down her leg and plopped onto the floor, splattering the furniture even more.

I was so tightly surrounded with furniture that I couldn’t move without contaminating everything around me. So I froze, unable to even twist my body for fear of spreading the poo around.

I started shouting to Brioni, asking her to run down the back and fetch the shopkeeper. “Mummy needs help,” I pleaded. Brioni refused: “I’m too shy.”

So I was left standing in one spot in a vain attempt to minimise the collateral damage while Delaney started to feel uncomfortable. She started bouncing in the sling, flicking mustardy lentils onto the items around us.

One of my hands was covered with the stuff where I had reacted out of instinct, trying to hold back the tide. And then Dell found my hand, and her leg, then my arm (which had previously been clean), then my shirt, and my necklace, and aargh, not my face!

All the while, I was pleading with Brioni to fetch help. She refused, so I called to Aisha to bring me a towel from the display shelves. One other woman was browsing the store, but she merely turned away politely — clearly too sophisticated to watch the train wreck that was happening.

Aisha brought a towel, and for a second I had to decide whether I would be happy to pay for it, because clearly the shop wouldn’t be able to sell it after I got my hands on it. Common sense returned to me, and I reached out for the towel with my one clean hand. I used it to cover the worst of the evidence. Carefully, I tiptoed around the splats on the floor, inching my way back through the tightly-packed furniture until I was in the clear.

Then I was faced with a dilemma. Should I bolt out the front of the shop, calling my brood after me? Or should I wait for a shopkeeper to emerge from the back room and admit to the fact that we’ve covered several pieces of furniture with faeces?

The decision was taken from me as the shopkeeper bustled up the centre aisle, pushing a trolley of clothes in front of her. She was about sixty-five, wide with even wider hair. But a friendly face. Surely she’d have kids and grandkids? I hoped so.

“Oh, there’s been an accident,” I started. I didn’t really have to explain much more. The matter was very plainly detailed all over one side of me and Delaney, and the air was getting thick with the stench.

She took one look at me and retreated hastily to the back room again. I didn’t know if I should follow her, but I waited — not wanting to drip on anything else — and she came out again, carrying a large sheet.

“You can use this to wrap around you,” she said, further explaining: “We were going to send this to Papua New Guinea, so I guess you can have it.”

When I asked if I could possibly clean up somewhere, she looked carefully at the very large sign advising customers that there are no public toilets available before taking pity on me. And perhaps she just wanted me out of the main shop area.

Gingerly, I followed her through the double-doors to the sacred shopkeeper’s lair, the cavern where they sort clothes and siphon off the really good stuff. Off to one side, a toilet was walled off with a teeny, tiny hand basin attached to the wall in the corner.

After removing all Dell’s clothes, I used water to clean her as best as I could. I kept retrieving stray lentils from the floor, walls and basin and flicking them down the drain. (Note to self: whole lentils do not digest.)

It was gross. There was poo everywhere. I was surrounded with the aroma of it, and that little hand basin didn’t provide enough room for me to wash Delaney properly.

In the end, I picked up my naked baby, wrapped everything else into the big sheet and headed out. The shopkeeper brought in some plastic pants for Dell to wear so I put those on her.

Back in the shop, the girls were still playing with the toys, I asked them to pack away, then I thanked the shopkeeper profusely and apologised for the mess. I laid my bundled sheet down carefully in a clear section of floor and returned to the main scene of the accident to wipe up some more of the poo plops with paper towels I had purloined from the bathroom.

I tried to wipe up most of the evidence off the furniture before the lady saw how bad the site was. But she didn’t want me to remain, and shooed me out gently, calling the girls for me — making certain I took all three older girls with me.

I picked up my bundle, and with my baby on my hip headed out to the car. We were surrounded by the smell of poo during the drive home. At home, I got straight into the shower with Delaney, and even after that, David said he could still smell it on me. Perhaps it’s still under my fingernails…

So if you’re a local op-shopper, here’s a fair warning. Do not browse the furniture at Salvos Loganholme, or you may get more than you bargained for.

Just to remind you, here’s a couple photos of the main culprit. Truly, I was just an innocent bystander.

Delaney, 10 months old, October 2010
Delaney at ten months — climbing and getting into mischief.
Delaney, 10 months old, October 2010
And still utterly adorable.